When John Lackey signed with the Red Sox prior to the 2010 season, he said he was looking forward to pitching a playoff game at Fenway Park as a member of the home team.
Three managers, assorted pitching coaches, and a reconstructed elbow later, he’ll finally get his chance.
Lackey starts Game 2 of the Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Saturday afternoon. The righthander was 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA in the regular season but 6-3, 2.47 in 13 starts at Fenway. That’s why he drew the Game 2 assignment.
“I’m excited about it. It’s been a few years since I’ve been in the postseason, but this is why you play the game,” Lackey said before the Sox beat the Rays, 12-2, in Game 1. “This time of year is what we’re all here for.
Lackey faced the Rays twice in the regular season, giving up nine earned runs on 19 hits over 10 innings. He laughed when asked whether he would have to contain his emotions for a postseason game.
“No, I’m going to be emotional. I’m going to be fired up,” he said. “It’s part of the way it is. That’s part of the reason I’m still pitching.”
Lackey has a fan in Rays manager Joe Maddon. When Lackey pitched for the Angels, Maddon was on the coaching staff. After Lackey helped the Angels win the 2002 World Series, Maddon used part of his playoff share to pay for his daughter’s wedding.
“So I was always grateful to John,” Maddon said. “Great teammate, great competitor.”
Lackey had Tommy John surgery after the 2011 season. Outside of a few bumps, he has been one of the Red Sox’ best starters this season.
“He’s been probably one of our top two starters in terms of consistency, start to finish,” manager John Farrell said.
Said Maddon: “Now you’re seeing him at full force, where he’s well. Because he’s got all the weapons, plus the makeup to be as good as you’re seeing right now.”
Lackey is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 14 postseason appearances.
The Red Sox paid tribute to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, along with some of the heroes, before the game.
After the teams were introduced and lined up on the baselines, there was a moment of silence. The families of the late Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier were then introduced and walked to the outfield beyond second base.
A group of Marathon runners and volunteers were next, clad in their yellow BAA jackets.
Then came a group of people who had been injured and some of those who came to their aid amid the chaos that day. Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat, and former Patriots player Joe Andruzzi led that group.
A group of medical professionals, many in scrubs, were next out of the center-field gate. The biggest cheers came when Boston Police Department commissioner Ed Davis led a long blue line of officers out onto the field.
Michelle Brooks Thompson performed the national anthem. Mayor Thomas M. Menino threw out the first pitch from the box seats near the Red Sox dugout.
Arredondo and Andruzzi announced “Play ball” and the game got underway.
“It was very emotional. I had to hold back some tears,” Shane Victorino said. “This is my first year here, but to think about the tragedy and those who suffered; seeing the Campbell family go out there, seeing Sean’s family go out there, to see some of the victims come out, it’s tough. We were here doing our job and less than a mile away, something like that happened.”
Game times set
Major League Baseball announced the game times for the rest of the series.
Game 3 Monday at Tampa Bay will be 6:07 p.m. If the Braves-Dodgers series is over, the game would be at 7:07 p.m.
Game 4, if needed Tuesday, would be at 8:37 p.m. If the Athletics-Tigers series is over, it would be at 8:07 p.m.
Game 5 back at Fenway, if needed Thursday, would start at 5:37 p.m. If the Athletics-Tigers series is over, it would be at 8:07 p.m.
When the Red Sox announced their roster, lefthander Felix Doubront was included for reasons of flexibility Farrell explained.
“We looked at Felix as [having] the ability to give us multiple innings,” Farrell said. “If we were to get into a situation where it’s a lengthy rain delay and we need multiple innings to start back up. It was more the ability to go multiple innings and a guy who has had a very good year for us.”
Doubront had expressed reservations about pitching in relief. But a series of meetings, the last one coming Tuesday, cured him of that.
“That sitdown with him was critical in terms of the accepting of the role and understanding there was going to be a need for a change in routine,” Farrell said.
Doubront hasn’t started a game since Sept. 22. But Farrell said he is capable of going 75 pitches.
Doubront was selected ahead of lefty reliever Matt Thornton, a July trade acquisition. Thornton did not have the impact that was expected. He pitched in only 20 games, seven in high-leverage situations.
All nine Red Sox starters had at least one hit and scored at least one run. It was only the third time in postseason history that happened. The Yankees did it in 1936 and the Cardinals in 1934 . . . Thornton, Ryan Lavarnway, and John McDonald are not on the roster but are staying with the team and were in uniform. The same was true for injured pitchers Andrew Bailey and Andrew Miller . . . David Ortiz has played in 58 postseason games, five shy of matching the team record set by Jason Varitek . . . The Sox snapped a four-game losing streak in the postseason dating to 2008 . . . Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Will Middlebrooks, and Junichi Tazawa all got in their first postseason game . . . Bruins coach Claude Julien sent Farrell a text message wishing the Sox well . . . Rain canceled batting practice on the field but the skies cleared about 45 minutes before first pitch . . . There’s a wall in the manager’s office at Fenway Park that has framed photographs of all the managers in team history. A prankster swapped out the photo of Terry Francona and replaced it with clubhouse attendant Pookie Jackson. “I walked in one day and there it was,” Farrell said. “I almost jumped out of my seat.”
Menino is suitably impressed by this Red Sox team. “Twenty-nine more victories than last year — this is a team that’s going to win,” Menino said. “From spring training on, that’s all they’re concerned about is winning, how to work together, how to win the ballgame. Look at the statistics after the seventh inning — that’s when they win ballgames. So glad to be here. Great for the city. Great for baseball. Wow.”